meta name="p:domain_verify" content="c874e4ecbd59f91b5d5f901dc03e5f82"/>


Monday, October 22, 2012

Mad As A...

well, yes.  I'm back onto hats.  It has been a while, what with the flu and one thing and another.  I've been playing about with roses for a while, but this is my best rose fascinator so far, made from stitched sinamay.  I think I'll make some in other colours, too, just to see what they look like, a yellow one, for instance...  I'm interested in making hats for people who don't wear hats...usually...  Small and unscary, my hats are, I think.  I hope!

I've created a new shape, and am about to wire it, and put its bias binding on.  These things are becoming second nature now, a learned process.  It's interesting to watch myself learn, as it were...and to see how much easier I find the process as I do it more and more.  My next step has to be to buy blocks so that I can make more felt hats, I love making those.  Meanwhile, I'll stay with fascinators and small hats on bands or elastic.  Like the rose, and  this flower one, below.   Poppy, do we think?  I'm definitely on a floral kick!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Making Space.

I'm finally recovered from the flu, and starting to make space around myself for creative things to happen.  My upstairs studios have had stuff dumped in them, as I work my way through the house, decluttering and muttering...  Now, it's time to get that sorted out.  I spent half a day this weekend, just sifting through one of the rooms, and found a remarkable amount of unfinished work.  I've been beating myself up for not making much in the past two years, only to find that I've got plenty to be working with for the meantime, thanks. 

I've gone back into therapy, the demon depression has been biting again.  The major focus of that is to help me to get out of my own way; there is a whole tangle of 'stuff', a bit like the thorny forest surrounding Sleeping Beauty's castle, that needs to be pruned back and sorted.  It's hard, painful work; those thorns scratch!  Part of what I'm learning is that I seem to have moved away from the work I do best, the work 'about' depression and mental health issues, the work about feelings.  Instead, I've been chasing the elusive 'sellable' work, that seems to be indefinable, at least for me.  Nobody seems to want to buy my work; that's not a complaint, it's a fact.  So I may as well please myself, and make the strong depression work, the work about feelings, and starve happy!

Friday, October 05, 2012

cough, cough,,,

...yes, the lurgy is still here, but I'm up and must mean improvement!  This is a truly vicious flu; I haven't been as ill as this in a long time.  But I'm well enough to start thinking about things... which is a distinct improvement over lying around like a wet dish rag!

Hats, as you know, are my current fascination, and a workshop with lovely Louise has introduced me to working with felt.  I do make wet felt, but have to say that this is much faster... you take a 'hood' of felt, and stretch it over a hat block.  Which, I suppose, is pretty much what you do when you make your own felt... must try it.  As you can see, you get amazingly sculptural shapes, depending on which kind of block you use. I particularly like this one, because I have found I can wear it in two different ways...two hats for the price of one!

 We met Louise through attending a workshop organised by the equally lovely James at Hat Blocks Direct; check out his site to see all the amazing possibilities for hats...he makes the blocks by hand, and they are truly lovely; these are the blocks I've bought so far from him.  The head is known as a 'dolly'; the blocks are for making small hats, such as pill boxes.  At first glance, they all look the same, but there are distinct differences in the way they are finished; in combination, they produce a number of different styles.  I'm having fun just working out all the different ways in which I can use them!

Now, of course, I'm trying to work out which hat blocks I need to get to make Even More Hats... watch this space!  

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Whine, Whine, Whine...

...and it's not the whine of a buzz saw (see previous post...).  I've got the flu.  Nope, not man flu, even though I did get it from my husband, who believes in share and share alike...  The real, achy, coughing, sneezing flu.  Bleh.

For once, I'm practicing what I preach.  I'm tucked up in bed, with a cat at my side, feeling marginally better than yesterday, playing silly games on Facebook and sleeping a lot.  When I'm sleeping, I'm dreaming of hats, and weddings, and friends.  This is not a bad way to dream...  I'm leaving the hanging of our exhibition to Jill and Clare, and may not even make it to tomorrow night's opening.  This is not like me.  But I'm of the view that pushing myself to get up and out of bed is just so much wasted energy.  Better to keep it for getting better.  Health, in my book, comes before productivity, and marketing, and all those things... if I'm not well, I'm not well. 

That's not always the case when I'm depressed, though.  Over the years, I've come to realise that getting up and going for a walk, or to make something, will help to lift the depression, rather than make it worse.  Physical illness needs lots of rest.  Depression tells you it needs lots of rest, but if you can persuade it to shut up for five minutes, enough time to get engrossed in making or writing something, then often you feel refreshed and A Whole Lot Better.  It's a balancing act.  If it doesn't work after ten or fifteen minutes, I go for a nap.  There are worse things to do with ones time. 

Be kind to yourself, is what I'm trying to say, here.  Even when it feels as if you're being cruel, initially, like forcing yourself to work.  It may not fix may not even help anything... but it's always worth a try.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Buzz, Buzz, Buzz...

said the very busy bee...(that's me).  I've been doing a lot, but not sharing it here... partly it's to be seen on the Spunbond Sensations!  blog.  Partly, it's to do with hats...not the making of them, but the work behind the scenes in promoting them...  Add into that, facilitating a creativity support group on Facebook, and starting a new blog on creativity as well... and it's pretty hectic.

Myrtle♥Rose are bringing our exhibition, Blossomings, to @The Gallery, Dereham (in the Memorial Hall) for the first two weeks in October, so if you have always wanted to have full permission to try on a LOT of hats and fascinators, not to mention hairbands and ornaments, that would be a golden opportunity!  As well as the hats, Jill Arnold and I will be showing textile art that relates to the theme in one way or another. Contact me with your email address, if you would like an invite to the Preview (I'll be making cupcakes for that one...).

I also wrote a profile of my work so far, in the new UK Art Quilters blog, .  The blog is an offshoot of a Facebook group.  Writing this was a very interesting exercise, and has made me think a lot about the direction my work has been taking over the last few years.  I'll write more about that another time, I think, when I'm clearer in my own mind about it.  It is a theme I return to constantly on this blog.  It's really important to me to make work with meaning; going back and looking at what I've made, there are several threads that run through my work, all of them meaningful to me, some for obvious reasons, some not so obvious.  I'd like to settle down into some serious work, and focus properly on it, rather than spreading myself thin over a lot of work that isn't quite so meaningful for me.  If you see what I mean...

I made a not so deliberate mistake in the UK Art Quilters Blog; I said I would show an abstract garden quilt...and then forgot all about it... oops!  So here is 'Green Girl In The Garden', one of my favourite Lutradur quilts.  The 'Green Girl' in the title refers to a textile doll I made several years ago... she had a triangular head and odd shaped body... this 'Green Girl' has a triangular body and a round head... but they relate, nonetheless!

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Lucky Me.

I never win anything.  Never.  Ok, I exaggerate... very, very rarely.  But I noticed a giveaway by Myfanwy Hart, which she wrote about on Facebook, and I thought... nothing ventured, nothing gained... and LOOK what I got!!!  Yes, I'm nuts about thread, and I'm delighted to disprove the saying that red and green, should not be seen, except upon an Irish queen...  aren't these yummy?   And she's doing these giveaways all this month... click here to find the 'rules of the game', as she puts it. 

Now...what to do with these beauties...mmm....  I might even consider doing a giveaway of my own... 

Friday, June 08, 2012

Stitch, Stitch, Stitch...

and a bit of forgetting to stop.  Four different pieces of fabric (including the water soluble stuff), all with stitched circles.  I find this kind of stitching really meditative.  I don't have to pay attention to a pattern, I don't have to have even stitching, I can just go with the flow and let the pattern develop by itself.  Bit like life, really.  You do have to get through the boredom barrier, and past the thinking about the work, and what else you have to do, but finally, there is just you, the stitching and a quiet mind.  Pure concentration.  It's very relaxing.

I must buy more bobbins for my older Berninas, making patterns like this need a lot of bobbin thread, and I have to use the same thread top and bottom.  Breaking off the stitch to refill the bobbin is a distraction.  There is a fifth piece upstairs, which I've done two bobbins worth of stitch onto... it's a little under half way stitched.  It would have been only a quarter stitched, but when I looked at it, I couldn't resist doing just a little bit more.  If I listen carefully, it's singing quietly to me to come back, change the needle and Get On With It.  All of this cloth is intended for hats or bags for Myrtle & Rose.  We're exhibiting in Watton in July, and doing Burnham Market Craft Fair this August, so we need a bit of stock. Which is why the cloth will have to wait a bit; I'm off to wire some hats...and as the rain seems to have stopped for a moment, I'll just nip down into the shed and get the hat forms I left to dry last night, ready to wire.  Obsessed?  Hell, yes!

Monday, June 04, 2012

Learning The Ropes...

is great fun, it transpires.  This is today's creation, a sinamay fascinator.  What's interesting about it is that the sinamay has been painted in places, using metallic paints, so predominately it is pink, but with a very gentle shade of green popping up now and again, and a lovely sheen to it.  I hadn't tried that before, and will do it again, but instead of using a brush, I think I'l use a roller... much easier to get the paint on evenly.  I like learning...what have you learned today?

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Getting It Right...Eventually.

As you know, I went on a wonderful hat making workshop last weekend.  One of the things I made was a fascinator, which I teamed with a felt flower; it's in the image above, perched on Dolly's head.  It looked okay...but somehow, there was something not quite right about it.  There was just too much difference in feel between the tactile softness of the felt and the sculptural nature of the sinamay.  I did persevere... made some more flowers, thinking that it was the balance that was off.  No.  So... I tried something else.  I made a rose out of some hand dyed silk organza, and tried that, instead.  Silk also has tactile softness...but of a different, somehow more formal kind.  This time, I think I got it right.  It's elegant, rather than a cross between elegance and...well.. cute.  What do you think?

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Is It A Fruit Bowl? Is It A Sugar Bowl? No...

it's a hat.  I thought it was important to prove, if only to myself, that I can do this stuff without the eagle eye of a teacher upon me... so I've been putting what I learned into practice.  This particular one is another pillbox; I love these shapes.  Much of millinery is applied textiles, with a bit of 3D thinking thrown in.  I finished this one this morning, it looks like this:

Now, I have to decide how to fasten it to hair.  The tutor recommended a thin hair band, covered with the same colour fabric.  That way, you know it won't fall off, and perhaps more importantly, it has to be worn in the right place on the head.  Hats are designed that way, for a particular spot on the skull (as it were), and often doesn't look right anywhere else.  I've been trying this one out, and surprisingly, it looks good in two or three positions.  The other option would to be to put milliners' elastic on the hat; the elastic gets hidden in the hair at the back of the head (no, not under the chin!!!).  Decisions, decisions. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Felting Flowers...

for my fascinator.  I thought it would be a good thing to get the hats finished, so I started with felting.  And then, I thought, better try out the skills I learned over the weekend... so, I got my blocks out.  And here is my hat making corner in the studio...  meet Dolly, the head, and the small hat block set.  The iron is essential; steam is the milliner's not so secret weapon.  And the little box has my hand sewing kit.  The little lilac and cream things scattered around the blocks are stylised sinamay flowers for decoration.  As well as making the felt flowers, today, I managed to finish off the binding of the saucer hat, and start to think about how to decorate it (still not sure...), as well as make a sinamay base for a second fascinator, in eau-de-nil.  It's merrily drying on Dolly, and the bias binding for round the edges will be added tomorrow morning. 

The flowers are still drying; when they have, I'll be adding stitch to create movement and line, and then see which ones I want to use.  The pink wool is commercially dyed, but the lilac I dyed myself.  It's great to have so much of the creative process within my own hands.  Control freak?  Me?  Surely not!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Hat Heaven!

I have just got home from the best workshop I have ever been to, in any capacity.  Louise Brooks, from Hats From The Hall was the inspired and inspiring tutor to myself and Clare Hedges ...and that was it!  Almost individual tuition.  Each of us made three hats, various Fiddly Bits and had a truly wonderful time.  It was held at the workshop space of Hat Blocks Direct , a wonderful family firm, really welcoming and knowledgeable about hat making; mum is a milliner herself!  Fantastic.  Can't overdo the superlatives. 

So...what did I make? can see them above.  None of them are completely finished; the saucer, below, has to have its binding completed, whilst the other two are complete hats, but are missing embellishments (as is the saucer, of course...).   We started by making a fascinator base by hand (I don't think I've ever stitched so much by hand in my life!), and added sinamay embellishments.  I really wanted to make a pillbox hat, so that was next, made over a lovely dimpled hat block.  Not bad for one day, huh?  Day two, and we made the saucer, which I suppose you could say is half way between a hat and a fascinator; bigger than a fascinator, easier to wear than a hat, and doesn't ruin your hairdo. 

I've never felt so at home with techniques and craft.  At the end of it, I felt that I have finally found what I want to be doing, the reason for collecting all that knowledge, skill and experience.  I LOVE making hats.  Clare had just as good a time, and we had a great girly weekend!  If you get the chance to learn with Louise, run, don't walk.  She is an absolute star (and she hates getting her photo taken...sorry, Louise!!!).

This image shows Clare stitching and listening to Louise in full flow.  The 'dolly' or head shaped block on a stand, came home with me (oops...) as did a set of small blocks to make...well, yes, small hats... just don't tell Robin...  The one on the far right of the shelf is used for extra large coolie hats, apparently.  There were an assortment of hat brims and crown brims and really everything you could possibly want to make hats with.  We both loved it, and I really didn't want to come home... but all good things come to an end eventually, don't they. 

These last two images are of the almost completed hats.  You know what it's like; you take bits and pieces you think you might use to a workshop, but if you don't have enough, there's only so much you can do!  The fascinator has a hand made felt flower on it, but it needs more; probably a couple of buds, or different sized daisies.  And I have an amazing black and glass button to go at the bottom of the feathers, and will probably add a little puff of black veiling... very burlesque!  This is bringing out the frivolous parts of my soul... and it couldn't happen at a better time.  Watch this space!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Breaking Through...

As you know, or may know, I offer creativity coaching, and work as a volunteer mentor for people starting their own businesses.  I've got a background in personnel and self development, so I hope I'm fairly good at helping people to work out what they want, and how to get it.  That's particularly important in a small business, because you are often your only resource.  One of the most important things a coach can do is get you to listen to yourself, to what you and others are saying (often about you and your business), and work out what that means.  I'm currently working with another textile artist, and we came to a somewhat unexpected conclusion to what her business might actually be.  In reaching that conclusion, I said to her that the word people use about me and my work most often is 'inspirational', but that sadly, they never seemed to actually buy the work. 

On the way home, I was reminded of a Facebook conversation between myself, Annabel Rainbow and Felicity Griffin Clark, about the making and selling of work.  Annabel's comment (and I paraphrase wildly...) was that you either made work to sell or you made the work you needed to make, but the two didn't often go together.  That rang in my mind with the comment about being 'inspirational' (you, of course, may have another word to describe me...feel free to add it to the comments, I'm always interested in feedback).  And suddenly, it all clicked together in my mind.  I may have to make the work...but I don't have to sell it.  I don't have to do anything, really, except what I want to do.  What do I want to do?  I want to inspire's what I seem to do best.  Perhaps the nicest thing anyone said about me  was that when I was on form, everybody around me changed their lives for the better.  That's what I love most.  Much of the art I make, is to illustrate a point for something or the Spunbond Sensations! blog, which is predominately a teaching blog, which I hope, eventually, will become a community. 

This feels like a huge breakthrough.  My art is important to me, and I won't stop doing it (actually, I don't think I could),  but the pressure of working to sell is something I just don't need.  I would rather enable others to do what I do.  I want to make up some kits using spunbonded fabrics, and others using hand dyes, for people who would like to try working with these things, but aren't quite sure where to start.  Enough 'stuff' for the project, and full instructions.  Hurrah!  I feel so much better about things now... sometimes, all you need is to listen to yourself...and the feedback you're getting.   Phew.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

If You Are My Sister, Look Away From The Blog!

Everybody else, you can look, but don't tell anybody, especially my sister!!!  Yes, Frank and Kate, that means you too!  I sat last night and finished a lap quilt for my sister Jane.  She loves autumnal colours, hence the leaf motif.  At the time she said she wanted a quilt from me, she had a cat, hence the small cartoon block of cats, and the similar binding.  Each fabric has its own quilting pattern, mainly leaves; the gold borders need quilting, but that'll be done today, just with some abstract squiggles, methinks...  I forgot about them when I added the binding, and thought I would be as well to finish that before finishing the quilting.  I may live to regret that... but it's too late to worry about it now.  Even mitred my corners...

I very rarely make useful quilts, and I'm wondering why, to be honest, I thoroughly enjoyed making this one, and the two cat lap quilts I made for my son and daughter in law as birthday presents (there will be photos when they come back from honeymoon).  Meanwhile... see what you think of Jane's quilt.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012


is becoming something of an obsession.  This is a shawl collar, made from Nuno felt, with stitch round the edges of the collar, to give it some definition.  I'm quite pleased with the way it turned out.  I'm not sure that it looks great on my chair, there, but on a person, it looks great.  I'm now trying to decide how to fasten it.. perhaps frogging, perhaps a loop and fascinating button... perhaps a vintage brooch. I'd love to know what you think.

As well as the coaching I do, I work as a volunteer mentor for people who are starting small businesses.  I met a new mentee today, and as always, it inspired me to do more coaching.  It is not a part of my work that has ever really caught on, though I have had some success working with people who are in some way stuck at some part of their creative journey.  I'm working on a new workbook, intended to help people find their own symbolic visual language, which I'm finding quite interesting.  Actually, it's more of a work bag, as you get a journal as well as the book in E-book form, and some other bits and pieces.  I hope it'll be fun to do. 

I've intended for some time to start a creativity blog; even made one here on Blogger.  I've held back from working on it for some reason, and my recent experience with Spunbond Sensations! is making it even more doubtful.  I had hoped that people would participate in Spunbond Sensations, as I can't answer questions I'm not's a bit like talking to yourself.  Perhaps it is just the blog structure... you can comment, but you can't blog on someone elses' blog, unless they allow you to.  I'm aiming for a cross between a blog and an email list; so far, it much more blog than conversation...  Perhaps if I started a list to support it? 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Scrap Bag Blues

...or greens, browns and yellows, not to mention the occasional red.  I'm struggling with depression, and the best thing I've found for that is to take bits and pieces of fabric that might not get used for anything else, and turn them into something meaningful.  The theme was spring... but as I pieced, I found myself thinking more and more of the Highlands.  Maybe it's because a friend from the Strath found me on Facebook, and connected... or maybe it's the colours, all of which I've seen in the hills.  I think these wee blocks are snapshots, Highland snapshots.  Though there's no deep green for the forests, there is the odd strong yellow for the oil seed rape, which doesn't come out up there til May, though here in Norfolk it has been blooming for a couple of weeks already, a very early start.

What to do with them?  If the depression continues, I'm likely to add to the pile.  As it is, I'm wondering about making little quiltlets out of them, and hanging them together.  Or I could sash them in deep brown, and make a small quilt. Or stitch them all together and put a couple of borders round them, dark green and brown, probably.  Decisions, decisions.  Thankfully, I don't have to make them all at once.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

I've Started (Stitching)...

so I might as well continue.  This is a lino cut, stitched with more of Dale's lovely variegated threads.  When I made the original print, I looked at it and thought, There's too much white space in that, it'll never hold together coherently.  And yet, it does.  I used two similar threads; the darker version to delineate the flower heads, the paler version to explore the surrounding areas.  I think it works.

I think it's an object lesson in trying things out.  Those prints have been around for ages, but because I felt disheartened, I didn't bother trying to make them work.  I'm actually really pleased with this piece, and actively want to get on with stitching some more!

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Stitching Up A Storm...

...or, more precisely, a lap quilt top and some quilting on small pieces.  I'm having a shoulder break ( I don't know why I sew with my shoulders, but I do...), and showing you one of the small pieces.  This is one of the 'Cracking Up' images that I took a couple of years ago, intending a series.  This one, an image of a very old brick wall, has been manipulated and printed out on Evolon.  I'm really grateful to Dale Rollerson ,who, some time ago, sent me a load of her variegated threads to try; I'm using them here, and they are lovely...great colour combinations, gloriously subtle.  They definitely did the job here ( I used Barrier Reef and Cradle Mountain on this piece, and they worked beautifully).  The only other thread I've used on this piece is a dark Madeira metallic, to emphasise the crack in the wall, and some dark madeira rayon in the bobbin.  I don't think it looks quite so much like a wall now; more like an inner landscape.  The colours may be gentle, but the stitch is spiky and sharp; I'll leave it to you to decide what that means in terms of mood.  I've tried to vary it quite a bit... see the close up, below.  It gives you a good view of the thread, too...isn't it yummy?

It feels good to be stitching again after a long time away from it.  Partly, the impetus is from Spunbond Sensations!, and partly from the need for work for an exhibition in the summer.  Either way, I'm happy to be back to work. 

Friday, April 06, 2012

Silk... just so lovely to work with.  This is a piece of Habotai, about 13" by 36", which I made many years ago.  I came across it when tidying up the cloth studios, and it seems to be holding its own very nicely.  It is made from layers of fabric screen printing inks, acrylic paints and mediums, with feathers and leaves working as both resists and printing blocks.  I like it a has the sheen of silk about it.  I have to say, it looks better in the flesh, as it were.  At the time, I couldn't think how to stitch it.  Now, I think it needs some hand stitch... another one to add to the pile.

I had forgotten this particular piece; it comes from a time when I did a lot of screen printing.  I was using up some inks that I'd made some screen prints with, and serendipitously produced this painted/hand printed piece.   Like everyone else, I'm guilty of stockpiling techniques, and then abandoning them for new ones, despite having written a book that talks about NOT doing that!  I think you teach what you most need to learn...  I do have some screens in the workshop, but haven't used them in a long time...maybe now is the time.  I had also forgotten how much I enjoy surface design work; would like to do more of that, too.  I spent a chunk of today ironing colour onto Evolon and Lutradur, ready to stitch.  I would be stitching, but Robin is in bed recovering from a really nasty fluey cold, and my sewing machine is right above his head.  So instead, I'm remembering all the different bits and pieces that I have ready for stitch, and contemplating going upstairs again, to cut batting.  After all, he can't spend the whole weekend in bed...there's football on Saturday!  Or maybe it's time that silk piece met a needle...

I'm also hoping to take possession of A New Toy on Saturday...more of that when I get it in my sticky paws!  Have a wonderful Easter, or Pesach, depending in what, if anything, you celebrate at this time of y ear.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

One Of Those Days...

where nothing goes right. I started stitching an interesting photograph, but couldn't settle to it.  Then, I started something else..that didn't work, either.  Finally, I picked up an innocuous monoprint of a leaf on Lutradur XL...and this is what it ended up as.  Happy?  No.  

I wanted texture... the good news?  I got it.  But it's unbalanced.  The yellow is too yellow, and the stitching outside the central motif isn't strong enough to balance it.  What it really needs, is a fine yellow cord.  Now fortunately, my friend Clare makes great cord... so with a bit of luck, she'll have some bright yellow threads to make some with...  in the meantime, I'll just have to brood.

Sometimes, when I'm depressed, as I seem to be today (it's been a two bar of chocolate sort of a day...I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions...), work is Just The Thing to get me out of it.  Today, though, it hasn't been.  As a rule of thumb, if I get more and more frustrated with what I'm doing, instead of getting sucked into the Zone, then the best thing to do is to go for a walk, or, in this case, go have a cup of coffee with a friend...preferably one who makes cord!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Machine Embroidery...

...or embroidery by machine?  I spent a large chunk of yesterday, and a lot of thread, stitching these, which will be made into bags or flowers or....whatever... It's pretty monotonous work, and I was reminded of a conversation I had with a friend, last week.  She said that she had bought an embroidery machine, with module, and had never really used it, because she realised that she didn't like setting up the machine to do something, and then walking away from it.  I had said, at the time, that I thought these machines were great if you wanted to make a large number of identical things, like embroidered sweatshirts, but otherwise, I really didn't get the point. Halfway through the stitching on the larger piece, though... I wasn't so sure.  Wouldn't it be better to programme a machine to stitch in circles, and just leave it to get on with it...?

Well, no.  Partly because the 'circles' I'm stitching here aren't really circles.  They vary in size and shape, and most of them wouldn't pass muster as a proper circle...  Many of them overlap.  It's what gives the fabric its charm.  And partly because I wouldn't hear the prompts the motor was giving me... that bit is thicker, so we're struggling a bit... and that meant, to me, that I needed more stitch in that area, to be sure that I had secured the bits and pieces underneath the cloth.  But mostly because if I left it to a machine, it would have no soul.  Throughout this stitching process, I'm constantly paying attention, making decisions, caring for the cloth, doing what it needs.  Machines don't have soul.  But the combination of machine plus maker produces magic. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Amazing What You Can Do...

... but you have to try.  Just thinking about it, won't do it, though a certain amount of thinking time is definitely desirable.  On Thursday, I wrote a post about the beginnings of a fascinator; you can read it here.  On Friday, I did what I said I would, and put more stitch onto the petals.  Today, though, I assembled what I think will be the final shape, though it's difficult to tell.  The photograph above is undeniably abysmal, but is the best I can do at the moment, partly because the fascinator doesn't have a base yet, so has to be held up, and partly because Robin is in bed with manflu (again...), and isn't around to take the photograph. 

The close up, above, is a bit better, and gives you an idea of what the additional stitch on the petals looks like.  I'm fairly happy with this piece, though I want to add some more of those beige feathers round the edges.  And then, it will just need to be added to its base.  I love doing this kind of thing, it's frivolous and fun... and will be a big part of Myrtle and Rose's output, to boot.

Friday, March 23, 2012


is a wonderful thing.  How do you like this wee clutch bag?  I made the fancy fabric, my friend and collaborator Clare Hedges made the bag (that's her, in her best cycling gear, modelling the bag).  Collaboration means that we do the bits we like best, and are good at.  We each play to our strengths...and that can only be good.  And the rule of synergy says that 1+1=3; in other words, our combined strengths are more, together, than they are as individual makers.  More of that lovely development I was talking about yesterday...  And given that there are three of us in this equation, with Jill Arnold also in the mix, I wonder what 1+1+1 equals... six, I think... Hmmm...

Of course, synergy applies in all sorts of situations.  Online, I'm hoping that synergy will work in a BIG way for my new blog, Spunbond Sensations!  I planned the blog as a being interactive; so 1+1+lots.... must equal Even More....  Please do have a look, and don't be afraid to contribute.  I'm looking for questions for Wondering Wednesday, and for images for Photo Friday.... please do get in touch.  And of course, if you're looking for a clutch bag, you know where to come!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Glitz and Glamour...

are much underrated, as I'm discovering as I learn to work with feathers, furbelows and frills...  This is a prototype silk paper and feather flower for a fascinator.  I love its exuberance.  I'm also grateful for having done a few floristry classes; there is a lot of similarities between hat making and floristry, when it comes down to it. and learning how to wire things properly has been a real bonus.  Now, I have to put this lot to one side, and contemplate it for a while... where will I add the beads (for there will be beads...)?  Are the colours appropriate?  Does the silk paper require more stitch (yes, probably).  Is the construction method right (no, not yet, but I know what to do about it).

Am I having fun?  Hell, yes!  And developing skills in one area, means that you automatically improve in all the others...competence is like a net; improve your handling of one type of material, and the whole of the net will shift, improving your handling of others, too...  And it encourages you to be open to  new things.  Go on, you know you want to try something new... what's stopping you?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Sample Stitching

I've been a bit of a tart when it comes to thread, mixing and matching to suit myself.  A bit like a child in a sweetshop, I've bought a bit of this lovely lemon, a bit of that tantalising turquoise... ignoring the brand, except where I've had problems; one problem means no more thread from that manufacturer.  It isn't very forgiving, perhaps, but I don't want the hassle of complaining, too much time and effort.  I'd rather buy from manufacturers who won't give me problems.  But there's been so much fanfare about Aurifil over the last wee while, that I thought I ought to try it when I saw it for sale on Sunday at Chilford.  There wasn't a huge selection, as we were at show end, rather than show beginning, so none of my beloved variegated threads, but I did buy three spools...the three spools in the picture above, to be precise...  I couldn't resist the purple, and the other two seemed interesting, so that was that.  It was only when I got them home that I realised they don't really go with anything I'm working on at the moment...right colours, wrong shades.  An object lesson in thread buying, really. 

So I looked out a piece of very vintage linen which I had dyed, and started trying out the threads on that.  I had bought the heaviest of the threads available; I'm not a traditional quilter by any means (actually, I'm not a quilter at all, except in that I have a tendency to work in layers...more of that in another post, maybe).  I draw with my threads, and I like them to contrast well with what's on the cloth, and to be distinctive.  The thicker the better, really.  And here's what I made of them. 

Really, all I wanted to do was a bit of mark making, but as I made some circles to start with, echoing the circles on the cloth, I found myself looking at a cairn.  I was really impressed by the thread; no problems whatsoever with machine embroidery, even where things started getting denser.  In fact, there are four layers of stitch on the cairn area, as I tried to make up for only having three colours.  I wanted a shadow effect, but the purple by itself was too strong, so layers of the other colours were added to break it up.  It's not the best piece I've ever made in my life (it'll probably end up in the bin...), but it really did serve its purpose.  Now, of course, all that remains is to get more Aurifil...  watch this space.  I think it'll be ideal for the stitched photographs, just the right weight.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Bertha Gets Busy...

...with a bit of help from me.  I'm starting to work towards an exhibition called 'Blossoming'; it's no surprise, then, that I'm making flower images.  This one is being printed out on canvas on Big Bertha, my Epson 7880.  At 24 inches, this is the widest I can print to, with no limit to the length.  This means that I can work reasonably big, but also generate a lot of small images simultaneously.  The ink is eye wateringly expensive, and as you can see, there are ten cartridges to replace...fortunately, they don't all run out at the same time.  I'm contemplating offering a printing service for textile artists; please email me if you are in the UK/Europe and might be interested, so that I can see if there is any demand. 

Up until now, Bertha has lived at the Gallery in Dereham; now, though, she lives at home with me.  It's good to be able to work when I feel like it, though she does take up rather a lot of room.  I think it's worth it, though.  Not being limited to A4 is great.  Every home should have one!

Tuesday, March 06, 2012


are wonderful things, so I thought I would show you some more of my collection.  These are chocolate brown Art Deco glass buttons (or that is what they were sold as...they certainly have an Art Deco look about them).  One of them is slightly chipped, but the rest are fine.  I love the way they curve and catch the light.  Delicious.  Almost tempting me to use them...but not quite. They are the only coloured glass in my collection, and were the most expensive.  The collection, such as it is, is still in its infancy, and I've been lucky enough to find inexpensive examples.  It's not about the money, though... you won't find me on Antiques Roadshow any time soon!

And thanks to Lizzie for recommending a book on buttons; I immediately ordered it, and it came yesterday.  Looking forward to learning more about buttons in general, and some of mine in particular. 

Monday, March 05, 2012

Health and Safety...

is everybody's favourite whipping boy.  Extensive European legislation has meant lots of work for lots of people.  I'm here to say, though, that you can't legislate against stupidity.  I stuck my arm in a Burco boiler and got it scalded for my trouble.  What was I thinking???  Not a lot, clearly.  I've been working a lot with boiling water, over the past week or so.  I've been acid dyeing and felting, both of which mean really hot water.  We forget how dangerous that is...until we have to stand in  front of the sink for an hour, repeatedly soaking one's arm in cold water.

I haven't had many injuries relating to textiles; however, the one rule I never break is wearing a mask when working with dry dye powder.  After working with dyes for three or so months, I was diagnosed with asthma.  I was using Dylon dyes, and it doesn't say to wear a mask.  I think it should.

Meanwhile, I have a basin full of  cold water next to my chair, which I can dip my arm in if and when it hurts.  Which at the moment is every five minutes or so... wish it would go away...  And was it worth it?  Won't know til I rinse out, wash and dry the cloth.  Let's hope so.  Meanwhile, off to Google scalds...

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Living Vintage...

...that's me, apparently.  I went to a vintage fair today with a couple of friends.  Held in a large church hall, it looked for all the world like the worlds' most expensive jumble sale.  There was the occasional a Frank Usher top, far too small for me but incredibly beautiful; if Robin had a Proper Job, I would have bought it...would love to collect beautiful clothes... sigh.  Mostly, though, it was stuff that was masquerading as vintage like a Primark top which could only have been a year or two old.  It does, however, make you realise that you are getting older... particularly when you recognise the clothes you used to wear, never mind those of your mother or your grandmother.  Etsy defines vintage as anything older than 20 years, which covers a multitude of sins. 

Vintage is really fashionable; everybody does it.  I find myself looking to earlier times for inspiration for Myrtle and Rose, things that are gentle, feminine, flattering, flowing.  I'm still not convinced by the vogue for using vintage imagery in art, though.  It has become ubiquitous, a whole Somerset Studio type style, using rubber stamps and copyright free imagery.  It started, I think, at least in part, because people were worried about copyright issues, and felt it was much better to take images from the past, that were out of copyright, rather than risk being pursued for breach of copyright from living artists.  It's a pity, I think, that people use this type of image instead of being inspired by their own work.  I think it shows a vast lack of confidence in our own abilities.

I guess I'm musing about this because I'm doing something I said I never would (yes, again...); using vintage inspirations.  But they are exactly that.  I'm not copying vintage clothes or hats or bags, just looking back at a gentler, less complicated time and making work that is mine, but with a different feel to it.  Not sure if I'm making any sense, here, but I dare say that's not unusual.  I'm happy to use vintage fabrics when I can find them; they dye better than contemporary fabrics, and are often of better quality.  In addition, they have a feeling of story behind them.  Interesting to repurpose them, to give them the amount of usage they were made for, albeit in a different way to what was originally intended. 

If I ever work out what my relationship to/with vintage is, I'll let you know.  Meanwhile, I'd love to hear what you think about this phenomenon... will it run and run?  I chatted to one of the stall holders, a woman around my own age (most of the stall holders were in their twenties, interestingly enough, which perhaps explains why so much of what was on offer did not seem to be vintage at all...).  She said that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find vintage clothing and jewellery, and it is becoming increasingly expensive, because it has become so fashionable.  But, she said, it won't go on for ever.  When it stops, prices will drop and things will flood back onto the market.    I'm tempted to think that it is one fashion that won't go away; the market for nostalgia is unlimited.  What do you think?